Friday, July 8, 2011

A Parallel

I’ve been thinking about this climate of disinterest surrounding Rossi’s invention.
To say that his device is revolutionary is putting it humbly. This single thing will change the course of mankind.
Now, I think I’m as skeptical as the next guy when it comes believing in the validity of some astounding claims made by individuals – Aliens among us, Bigfoot, The Loch Ness Monster, perpetual motion devices, Zero-point energy, etc, etc. But, I have always had a keen interest on the work originally performed on cold fusion by Ponds and Fleischmann back in the late 80’s. Only to later be lulled into disbelief by the popular press and main-stream media. Parroting back to the masses what the supposed, “authorities” on such esoteric subjects as nuclear physics and the like have said – “It simply doesn’t work. It can’t work. It breaks all the laws of thermodynamics!”
But, in the back of my mind, I felt that there was something to the story. Something to the assertion of this concept of cold fusion.
I certainly don’t claim to be formally educated in that particular field of discipline nor do I claim to have some advanced degree in theoretical physics. I actually have been involved heavily in information technology so far back in time when it was an offshoot branch of electrical engineering simply calls computer technology.
But I have once witnessed something akin to what is happening now with the E-Cat and I’ll relate the story to you here.
It was the early '70’s. I was young, fresh out of college and working for a very large and powerful computer company at that time.
You may never have heard of it today. It was called Control Data Corporation. They built the world’s most powerful computers. Or, at least that was their mantra.
This company had built itself up in the late 1950’s from the talents of one very bright engineer in computer technology. His name is still considered a legend in computers.
He was Seymour Cray. He was the “father of supercomputers”.
At the time he was at C.D.C., he had dreamt, designed and built the fastest, most powerful scientific computers anywhere in the world.
They were revolutionary in their design and structure. He took the current technology at the time and raised it up many-fold to a higher level.
He continued to do this even after leaving C.D.C. to start his own companies – Cray Research and Cray Computer Corporation.
I was lucky enough to meet the man once before his departure from C.D.C. as he pursued his new endeavors in those companies.
No this story isn’t really about Seymour Cray, per se. Even though it illustrates that a single man can revolutionize a particular industry. No, this goes a little further.
You see, as I was a young lad and I was working in the computer industry, I had a keen interest in new technology.
I was an avid electronic hobbyist and devoured technical magazine like Popular Electronics and the like.
There was something happening on the horizon and Popular Electronics sort of explored new and different devices that were made available to not only business but to the hobbyist market as well. One of these items was this little chip manufactured by this relatively insignificant company called Intel out in Santa Clara, California. They had created the “4004” which was a very primitive programmable large scale integration, micro-computer. It was to be used in a hand-sized calculator.
The 4004 soon begot the Intel 8008 which was a much more powerful a micro-processor and could be put to use as a desktop computing device.
And so, a fellow by the name of Ed Robert’s with his company, MITS, out in Albuquerque New Mexico, did exactly that.
He designed a practical desktop microcomputer that had lots of toggle-switches and L.E.D’s (brand new technology at the time). A new standardized bus structure for the plug-in cards that could be added to the basic machine.
He offered up these “Micro-Computers” as they were called at that time because Digital Equipment Corp. already coined the term “Mini-Computer” with their PDP-8 line.
Roberts had offered kits so that the average electronic hobbyist with suitable soldering experience could assemble one of these at home and have his very own computer. For a mere $400 or so.
A MITS Altair 8080 - The very first personal computer.
I ordered one and built it.
It took me hours of painstaking time populating the circuit boards with parts, soldering them in, testing for shorts. All while using a magnifying lamp.
Finally it was complete and I powered it up. The “ultimate smoke test”.
It worked – Eureka, I have it!
It really couldn’t do anything very useful at the time as it had very limited memory – 256 bytes.
I used those toggle switches to manually enter machine code – byte by byte. And it could only display results on those HAL eyes of the blinking red leds. But it was a computer and I built it and would make it do my bidding.
I was beyond ecstatic. I wanted to preach to the world the word of what these tiny beasts were and what they could offer man.
Now since I was so young and naive and not familiar with the real ways of the world, especially the business world, I took my Altair to work one day.
I was mostly met with disinterest from my colleagues. Fellow field-engineers as we were called. Ready to race in to diagnose and repair a faulty memory module from the monster 7600 hidden away in the air-cooled, glass enclosure within the bowels of Aerospace Corporation. Or to fix a jammed card reader or a malfunctioning tape-drive column’s vacuum pump. They were not interested in such things. They were already tired with the every-day, rat-race world of Big Computers. They were jaded.
I found a non-engineer that was puzzled with what I had brought in to work. He was actually a salesman for C.D.C.. He made the big bucks! Impeccably well dressed and manicured. Aloof to us lowly grunts. He made the real “Mad money”.  A percentage off of multi-million dollar installations. Wined and dined with the Customers. Played golf on the week-ends with them and went to haughty cocktail parties in the evenings.
He asked me, “Frank, what could you possibly do with that toy? Do you really think it would ever replace this?”, as he gestured, pointed with his thumb over his shoulder to the behemoth sitting in the glass room.
I affirmed, “Yes, it will one day”, in a weaken voice.
He laughed and basically patted me on the head as he walked away
You see, his whole existence was based on the status-quo of the “big iron” computers maintaining their dominion in the business and science world. In his mind, nothing would ever touch it.
He was typical of much computer company management during this same time.
They could not see what was right in front of them because it was counter-culture to their whole world of existence.
Now, do you see the parallel to what Rossi is offering and the recalcitrant attitude of media as well as the current energy companies?
They all think it’s a toy and nothing ever will become of it.
They don’t see the E-Cat as threat whatsoever. It’s simply a toy or worse, a hoax. It can’t do anything!
They are completely blind as was the old "big iron" computer companies!
Going back to the computer industry analogue for one last time; There used to be many, many powerful computer companies – Burroughs, Univac, C.D.C., Wang, Data General, G.E., Digital Equipment Company, just to name a few off the top of my head . They are all gone now. Even the mightiest of the mighty, I.B.M. almost went down, but they were so diversified and they finally pulled back from the precipice only to be a shell of what it once was in its glory days.  
They never thought that “toy” would ever be a threat to them or their business models. And it would never, ever, "eat their lunch".
The petrol and utility industries are thinking “Nothing to worry about here - go along with business the usually way. Nothing will change for us.”
Sorry boys, but I’m afraid you’re going to be blindsided just like all those bygone computer companies.
Um...I would pull out all of my money in any investments I may have in those "old technologies", petroleum, utilities, etc. companies. If I had any. Or anything related to the "old way" of doing things.

I am truly excited. It's going to be a fun ride.

The rules have changed and the world will change!

1 comment:

  1. I always wondered which side of the fence you worked, hardware, or software.